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US Government

Famous Supreme Court Justices

Portrait of John Jay
John Jay
by Gilbert Stuart
Chief Justice John Jay (served: 1789-1795)

John Jay was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. During the Revolutionary War he served as a delegate from New York in the First and Second Continental Congress. He later served as President of the Continental Congress. He was one of four Americans who signed the Treaty of Paris ending the Revolutionary War.

Jay became the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1789 after being appointed by President George Washington. He set the precedent that the Supreme Court would not give opinions on legislation, but would only rule on the constitutionality of the cases brought before it.

Chief Justice John Marshall (served: 1801-1835)

John Marshall was the longest serving Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in history. He is widely considered the most influential Supreme Court justice. Marshall helped to establish the Supreme Court as a powerful and independent third branch of the government. His ruling on the landmark case Marbury v. Madison laid the groundwork for the future of Constitutional law in the country.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (served: 1902-1932)

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. was a very influential justice. His opinions have been cited and used by judges over the years in important cases. Perhaps his most famous decision was Schenck v. United States in 1919 where he made a ruling regarding free speech against the government. He said that each case must be individually examined to see if it presented a "clear and present danger" to the United States.

Chief Justice William Howard Taft (served: 1921-1930)

William Howard Taft was the President of the United States from 1909 to 1913. He later was appointed to Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and was the only person to have served as President and Chief Justice. Taft helped to reorganize the federal court system and successfully argued that the Supreme Court Building be constructed to physically separate the court from Congress.


Chief Justice Earl Warren
by Unknown
Chief Justice Earl Warren (served: 1953-1969)

Earl Warren served as governor of California before being appointed as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by President Eisenhower. As Chief Justice he became known as a champion of human rights. He presided over some of the most important civil rights cases in history including Brown v. Board of Education, Hernandez v. Texas, and Bolling v. Sharpe. He also headed up the Warren Commission which investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Justice Thurgood Marshall (served: 1967-1991)

Thurgood Marshall was the first African-American Supreme Court justice. Before becoming a justice he was the chief counsel (main lawyer) for the NAACP. He argued several cases before the Supreme Court including the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education. While serving on the court Marshall became known as a champion of individual rights.

Portrait of Sandra Day O'Connor
Sandra Day O'Connor
from the Library of Congress
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (served: 1981 - 2006)

Sandra Day O'Connor was the first woman to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. She was appointed by President Ronald Reagan and unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 1981. She was known as a very conservative judge during the first part of her term, but was later considered a moderate judge who approached each case with an open mind.

Interesting Facts about Supreme Court Justices Activities To learn more about the United States government:

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Works Cited

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